One Big Family

 

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:26-29)

Relate: Sometimes it seems like the disparate pieces don’t quite fit together. My church here in Southeast Turkey is in many ways three different churches that all meet under one roof. There is an English speaking, a Turkish speaking, and an Arabic speaking service every Sunday. Even in the English service there are between 12 to 20 different nationalities and cultures represented any given Sunday. Many of these are African and sometimes the worship can get a bit… rowdy. Others in the congregation are from Central or Eastern European countries and are coming from a very high church background where you would never imagine such exuberance in the sanctuary.

For many English is actually a second or third language and so it is difficult to structure and shape a message that can be both challenging and clearly understood. I have to admit, sometimes things don’t always fit together. Egos get in the way. Sensibilities are upset. Cultures clash. But these are moments to grow and stretch. We are a family and I don’t know about you but growing up in my home sometimes siblings…  well, they taught their parents the necessity of patience. Honestly, I would be very worried if someone said there was always perfect agreement and serenity in their home. Either someone is very dishonest or something very weird is going on in that house. I’d put my money on an alien mind control device. Is there any way I could buy it off you or at least borrow it for a couple of my classes?

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Living Sacrifice

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (Romans 12:1)

Read the blog: https://theriverwalk.org/2017/07/29/july-29-living-sacrifice/

One Voice

May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

Read: 2 Chronicles 30:1-31:21, Romans 15:1-22, Psalm 25:1-15, Proverbs 20:13-15 

Relate: I recently read an article from Relevant Magazine pointing out how some major theologians of the past would not be considered evangelical if they were  around today. To be honest it was not a very well written or researched article, I am surprised and disappointed that it made it by the censors of what at one time in the distant past I considered a great (shall I say… Relevant?) magazine. That said, the sentiment of the article was spot on. We today are far more (and far too) concerned with orthodoxy where we should be focusing on unity.

Honestly, I do not like a lot of major big name influential preachers these days. Joel Osteen… he preaches far too much about blessing and not nearly enough about repentance. But he has a message of love and encouragement that many desperately need to hear. Steven Furtik… I am not a fan sometimes of his analogies or illustrations. But man, that guy can preach and people are clearly getting saved and lives changed through his ministry. The Gospel Coalition… they are coming dangerously close to making an idol out of the concept “the gospel” (No, it isn’t the gospel that saves it is Jesus who saves. No it isn’t the gospel that convicts, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts). But they have some great online resources I have used over and over again. I could go on and on nitpicking both current figures like Joyce Meyer, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels… and historical ones like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Soren Kierkegaard, CS Lewis, George MacDonald… but does all this focus on differences really do anything at all in advancing the Kingdom. If the devil is the accuser of the brethren, how often are well meaning complainers little more than tools of the devil?

Continue: One Voice

July 18 – Unjust Punishment

He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. (Romans 4:25)

Relate: Some times life just is not fair. I had a strong sense of the injustice of the world even at a tender age. I was probably eight at the time. I was making some toast in the kitchen when my sister came in and got a drink. She came in through the dining room door, poured herself a glass, then left out towards the office without shutting the fridge. Not thirty seconds later my mom appeared in the kitchen through the dining room door. She saw the open door and me buttering my toast and set in on scolding me for leaving the door open. My protestations of innocence only added lying to my crime which made the entire situation far worse. I don’t remember what my punishment ended up being… probably I had to wash the dishes for the next few days. All I remember was the injustice.

Growing up, I was the brat, my sister was the angel. If I did something wrong I would get in trouble. If she did something wrong, if there was even a sliver of uncertainty of who the culprit was, I would get in trouble. Though she will deny it to this day, we both know there was more than a few times I took the punishment on her behalf. The thing is, I don’t ever think I took that punishment voluntarily. Let me take that a step further: I am absolutely certain there was not one instance where she was getting in trouble and I volunteered to take her place. To be fair, the opportunities for me to take her punishment were few and far between. I was getting punished far more often than she was but despite the far greater number of opportunities, she never volunteered to take my place either.

We didn’t because people don’t. It just isn’t done. Maybe on occasion a spouse or a parent or child will take this noble walk, but even then it is a very rare thing. Yet we were strangers to God when He took our place. We were considered his enemies when He died for us. That is beyond my comprehension.

Continue reading:

https://theriverwalk.org/2017/07/18/july-18-unjust-punishment/

Who Is This Son of Man

https://theriverwalk.org/2017/05/22/may-22-2017/

Nothing Less Than Complete Surrender

When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)

Read: Joshua 15:1-63, Luke 18:18-43, Psalm 86:1-17, Proverbs 13:9-10

Relate: Jesus was a heretic. No, wait, please… before you go running for the exit, please hear me out. By our standards of orthodoxy He had to have been. What He taught all too often doesn’t seem to line up with our rigorous definitions of sound theology. I’m serious (sort of). Just take for example the way He answers the most important question anyone could ever ask: “What must I do to inherit eternal life.” Two different times someone comes to Him asking this question. Both times He seems to get the answer wrong.

I mean, seriously. What was He thinking? By the time I was in third grade I had learned by rote at least three different “proper” ways to answer this question. The first was called the ABC’s of salvation: Admit you are a sinner, Believe that Jesus died for your sins, Confess your need for Him. The second way was called the Romans road. Basically, you cherry pick various verses out of Paul’s epistle to the Romans to show a person the same thing as the ABC’s. The third way and easiest by far was to simply get a person to repeat with you the sinner’s prayer. Any of these three methods will work, but Jesus doesn’t use any of them.

Continue at: https://theriverwalk.org/2017/04/17/8570/

Are You Ready For Your Miracle

~ Beejai

But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” For there were about 5,000 men there.
Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” So the people all sat down.

Read: Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20, Luke 9:7-27, Psalm 72:1-20, Proverbs 12:8-9

Relate: Peter was in prison. Jesus had risen and gone into heaven. Pentecost had come and the number of people joining the church had exploded into the thousands. The religious leaders and then even Herod had taken notice. First, the Jews in Jerusalem stoned Stephen. Then, in an attempt to win over the hearts of his people Herod had James, one of the three leading disciples captured, imprisoned, and killed. After that he caught the big fish. Peter was in jail and tomorrow he was scheduled to die.

That’s when the angel showed up. Peter was asleep chained between two guards while others stood watch outside his cell. An angel shows up and wakes the apostle. “Get up, get dressed, and start walking” it says. Did you ever wonder about this? That angel could easily have just transported Peter right to the prayer meeting he would head to anyways. But no, Peter has to do the work. Get up (why on earth would he be sleeping the night before he was to be executed), get dressed, get going. On the flip side, I wonder if Peter was a heavy sleeper. What if he simply rolled over and went back to sleep? It wasn’t until the angel was gone and he was halfway down the street that he realized that he wasn’t dreaming. So what if he blew off those first commands, rolled over, and kept on sleeping. Can you hear that angel talking to Jesus up in heaven? I tried to get him up. I kicked him three times, shook him… I was even tempted to stand him on his head, but the big lug just wouldn’t wake.” Jesus just rolls his eyes, “Oh Peter. I guess I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.”

Continue: https://theriverwalk.org/2017/04/02/march-31-are-you-ready-for-your-miracle/